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AIS for Recreational Boaters

AIS and Advancements in Marine Technology

One of the most exciting advancements affecting the Maritime Industry including Recreational Boaters is AIS technology. AIS stands for Automatic Identification System, which allows vessels to transmit information such as position, speed and course direction, to anyone with the ability to receive that data transmission. This technology has become a requirement aboard commercial vessels and those above 65 feet. But as a Recreational Boater, can you benefit from AIS aboard your boat? I think the answer is yes, and here is why.

AIS and Understanding Intentions

Think back to the basic rules of the road for a moment. “Maintaining proper lookout” involves understanding the intentions of other vessels. With AIS, you have the ability to electronically verify the course and speed of another vessel. Here is a real world example of using AIS aboard smaller sized vessels:

As a Captain, I often find myself crossing Long Island Sound at night. While the vessels that I operate are generally not equipt with AIS Transponders, I am always equipt with my iPhone. As you may have guessed, there is an app for that. Before crossing the sound at night, I like to take a general observation of the commercial marine traffic that I will encounter. They are my greatest concern (aside from lobster pots) while boating at night. Depending on the weather and visibility, the tug and barge traffic can be somewhat hard to spot, especially if their nav lights are blending in with the lights ashore. Determining their approximate location and general course direction, helps me decide my speed and course direction. The goal is to always pass well to their stern, and never try to hurry up and cross in front of them.

For this reason alone, I think spending under $10 per year for an AIS app on your phone makes all the sense in the world. Curious to know more about AIS and how you can incorporate it into your boating? BoatU.S. Foundation wrote a great article on AIS that talks about additional options as well as some of the costs. They also produced an online course that is really helpful. Remember, anyone who subscribes to my blog gets a 20% discount on BoatU.S. Foundation Courses at checkout. Sign up today and don’t miss out on a discount. Already a subscriber? Click here and I will reply back with a code.

Thanks for checking out my blog, I wish you fair winds and calm seas.

(Disclosure: I receive $0 compensation if you purchase a course from BoatU.S. Foundation. The 20% discount is my way of saying thanks for following my blog, and to incentivize you to learn more and go farther. Photo credit: screenshot from